It's funny where the search for a new car can take you. From trying something new to a track day with 500 of your newest mates.
Back in December 2019 I was on the hunt for a new daily driver. I had had a run of European cars and wanted something new, specifically the Hyundai i30 N. I'd only ever seen a few of them, one belonging to automotive social media guru Mark Trueno, which competed at World Time Attack Challenge in 2019.
A Hyundai hot hatch, though?! Working at Domino's as a delivery driver as a teenager, you only thought of Hyundai as cheap little run-arounds, like the Excel. Could they really make a hot hatch?
In 2019, the market was still relatively small. With only a manual option in the hatchback or the Fastback. It felt like quite a niche little community, one I instantly felt welcomed into before I had even taken delivery of my new N, with Facebook groups dedicated to the N brand already formed.
Then along came an event that would change my perception with the Hyundai and the N brand forever – The N Festival. An event hosted by Hyundai themselves for ‘Nthusiasts' to gather and enjoy their little hot hatches.
My first N Festival, I unfortunately missed the first one at Wakefield, took place in my home state at Queensland Raceway in early 2021 (even though officially it was the 2020 N Festival), during the great spicy cough (COVID–19), so restrictions were still in place. With a total attendance of 280 people and 106 N cars, back then I thought that was impressive, but just you wait…
The event was very simple, a day of track action as well as technical support from N Australia. There was plenty of track time and instructors on hand to come out and give coaching to help those new to track days to feel comfortable.
I was now addicted and was looking forward to N Festival 2021. This was at Winton Motor Raceway. Hyundai had on display the new dual-clutch auto Kona N, i30 N and i30 Sedan N models, along with the early deliveries of the i20 N, which journalists, current and prospective customers could thrash on track. Hyundai had branched out to many more eager Nthusiasts making it more accessible to a broader audience!
The event grew from last year with 280 people and 130 cars in attendance and adding in activities at and away from the track, including passenger laps in the TCR i30 N racers, pub trivia night and a fun twisty mountain drive!
The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia was the venue for 2022 and you guessed it I made the trek. Despite the distance many interstate owners traveled and the event grew again. With a total of 400 people and 200 Hyundai N in attendance this time!
Again with a drive through the scenic South Australia countryside with a lunch stop and then the next day with time on track. On top of all that, we were joined by special guests, Joonwoo Park (Vice President N Brand Management Group), Till Wartenberg (Vice President N Brand & Motorsport Sub Division) and Albert Biermann, the lead engineer behind the N performance range. Hyundai even flew over the RN22e concept car to have it on display and punted out on track in the hands of journalists (Ed: including Torquecafe, and you can read our Track Test of the Hyundai RN22e here).
Hyundai try and Ngage their community at every opportunity. At the beginning of 2023 I was made an ‘Nfluencer', which is a Hyundai Global initiative. So this year they took me to the Goodwood Festival of Speed for the official launch of the Ioniq 5 N and to South Korea for the ‘N birthday' and the N Festival at Inje Speedium.
This journey across the last four years brings me to the weekend just gone – the 2023 N Festival.
Held at Sydney Motorsport Park it was one of the largest single make events in Australia ever, with more than 500 cars in attendance and more than 1800 people, it was the biggest and best N Festival to date. Obviously I couldn't miss it, so I packed my i20 N up on a trailer and headed south.
For the traditional photoshoot Brabham Straight was filled full of Ns, five wide and stretching almost all the way to the last corner of the track; and there were still plenty of N's in the car park.
A similar layout to past N Festivals, except with the huge numbers, three separate cruises starting in different areas around the outskirts of Sydney culminating back into a near synchronized arrival at Sydney Motorsport Park for the start of the track activities. Given the sheer volume of cars, there were two groups which were then broken up into eight further groups of 25 cars for each track session.
Trackschool Trackdays supplied instructors for everyone to make use of and you could also sign up to take the new Ioniq 5 N around the track for a couple of laps (a seriously impressive piece of gear). A motorkhana was also being run on the skid pan for those that didn't get enough action on track.
Off track there were plenty of activities as well, mini karts for the kids and driving instruction in a Kona Electric for those slightly bigger kids, a show and shine, simulator competition sponsored by Racer Industries and a tyre change competition.
Hyundai had experts from technicians to engineers. Hyundai Australia Product Development Manager, Tim Rodgers was on-site providing an endless wealth of knowledge on the Australian engineering effort for the Ioniq 5 N. Albert and Till, along with many others from Hyundai Global, made an appearance. Nthusiasts get access that no other brand offers – where else do you get to sit down and chat with the engineers responsible for developing your car?
After two long days of action, new and old friendships were made and a lot of weariness from the action. Every single owner and would-be owner were already making plans and speculations of where N Fest 2024 will be held.
I am looking at Toyota GR owners wanting to jump ship for a brand that really goes above and beyond for their customers.